Appeal Court reserves judgment in Plateau gubernatorial legal battle

Appeal Court reserves judgment in Plateau gubernatorial legal battle

The Court of Appeal in Abuja on Saturday reserved judgment in the appeal filed by the candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in the Plateau State governorhip election,, Nentawe Yilwatda Goshwe, against Governor Caleb Mutfwang of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.

The Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, had declared
Mutfwang winner of the March 18 governorship election in the state after he scored 525,299 votes to defeat 17 other candidates, including Goshwe, who polled 481,370.

Goshwe challenged Mutfwang’s election at the tribunal, claiming that the governor was not validly nominated and sponsored by his party (PDP) and that PDP has no structure to sponsor any candidate for the governorship election.

He equally alleged that Mutfwang’s el was not conducted in compliance with the Electoral Act, adding that the PDP candidate did not win the majority of lawful votes cast during the election.

However, a three-member panel of the tribunal headed by Justice R. Irele-Ifijeh in a unanimous judgment dismissed the petition for lacking in merit.

Not satisfied, the APC candidate appealed the tribunal judgment and asked the appellate court to declare him winner on the grounds that the governor was not qualified to have contested the election because he was not validly sponsored and nominated by a political party -the PDP.

He also argued that the PDP lacked structure and was not qualified to sponsor any candidate in an election.

The APC candidate also told the appellate court in his notice of appeal that there was over-voting and non-compliance with the 2022 Electoral Act during the 2023 governorship election in the state.

In arguing his appeal on Saturday, lead counsel to the appellants, Prof. Goke Olagoke (SAN) urged the court to set asside the judgment of the tribunal and declare his client as the winner.

He told the court that the case of the appellants is that the 2nd responded (Governor Mutfwang), was not qualified to contest election by virtue of lack of valid sponsorship by a political party, contrary to section 177 (C) of the 1999 Constitution.

Olagoke said his submission was predicated on various court judgments including decisions of the appellate court, adding that the court is bound to abide by the decisions for consitency.

But in a motion dated October 30 but filed on November 2, 2023, the governor through his legal team anchored by a former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice (AGF), Mr. Godwin Kanu Agabi (SAN) urged the appellate court to strike out some grounds of the appeal for being incompetent.

He equally filed a notice of preliminary objection challenging the jurisdiction of the court to adjudicate on the appeal.

Attacking the competent of the appeal, Agabi drew the attention of the court to the fact that the issue of nomination and sponsorship of a candidate for election is purely an internal affairs of a political party, which the court has no jurisdiction to inquire into.

He submitted that the word qualification used by the petitioner is misleading as the issue raised by the petition bordered on nomination and sponsorship.

On this, Agabi who was with seven other Senior Advocates of Nigeria including Damien Dodo, urged the court to take congninance of the fact that the word sponsorship and nomination is used 23 times in the petition.

After listening to submissions of counsel to both parties, the three-member panel headed by Justice Elfrieda Williams- Dawodu said, “judgment is reserved to a date to be communicated to parties”.

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